DAILY MAIL ARTICLE 9TH JANUARY 2016
We splash out £1bn a year – but for most of us paying a good plumber is cheaper: Why you DON’T need expensive boiler insurance
- •Ten million homeowners pay out £1bn a year on boiler cover
- •Insurance typically costs £20 per month, yet people rarely claim
Heating engineer: ‘It is not a rip-off but it is usually a waste of money’
The prospect of the central heating breaking down over the winter months scares many homeowners into taking out expensive – and often unnecessary – boiler insurance.
Ten million homeowners a year spend a combined £1billion on such cover to fix broken boilers, repair burst water pipes and kick-start the central heating back into life.
But the vast majority of these people – who typically pay £20 a month for cover – would be better off burning the pound notes they spend on insurance in staying warm.
Boiler insurance: Ten million homeowners a year spend a combined £1bn on such cover to fix broken boilers
This is because most never have to claim – and those that do can spend more on the cover than they would have done if they just called a plumber to fix the problem when it arose, research has found.
Boiler insurance covers the cost of a plumber to come out and fix any problem with your boiler, at any time of day or night. It includes the cost of replacing broken or worn out parts.
Some also include replacing the boiler if it cannot be repaired – and an annual inspection.
The insurance is sold as standalone boiler breakdown cover or offered as part of a more comprehensive package that covers other central heating problems, for example broken radiators or leaky pipes.
It is separate from home insurance that will not include the cost of your central heating boiler system as standard.
TO AVOID GETTING INTO HOT WATER WITH COWBO
There are no guarantees when it comes to finding someone to do a good job. But there are ways you can lower the risk of being duped by a cowboy.
•Ask family and friends for a personal recommendation. Take a look at the work they have completed and the price paid. Separately, ask to see customer references.
•The Government-backed TrustMark scheme is a not-for-profit organisation where tradespeople sign up to a strict code of conduct.
•There are also commercial websites aimed at helping people find quality tradesmen, including Which? Trusted Traders and Rated People.
Energy providers British Gas and EDF as well as specialists such as HomeServe offer boiler breakdown cover. Premiums are based on boiler type and age
Research by consumer group Which? reveals that two thirds of boiler insurance policyholders never make a claim.
Those that do claim would invariably have been better off saving the money used to fund premiums and calling out a skilled local plumber to fix their problem.
Which? says the typical cost of an annual boiler service is £70 while insurance that includes an annual inspection is £245. The average cost of repair is £210.
Heating engineer Billy Wilgar, of AC Wilgar, based in Orpington, Kent, says: ‘Scare stories are often used to push the merits of emergency boiler insurance cover. It is not a rip-off but it is usually a waste of money.
‘It makes better sense to ensure your boiler is well looked after with an annual service from a local professional that you can trust. This should not only stop problems occurring but savings made from not taking out insurance can be put aside for the rare occasions you have a genuine emergency.’
He adds: ‘Insurance does not guarantee that your heating gets fixed any quicker. There is also small print in these insurance policies that enables companies to weasel out of fixing faults – for example, if a policyholder has not had their boiler inspected on a regular basis.’
The Financial Ombudsman Service received 1,300 complaints about home emergency cover in 2014 – on everything from delays in repairing burst water pipes to disputes over whether the insurer should have replaced a boiler or not. In the first six months of last year it received 1,200 complaints.
Many heating systems are already covered under a manufacturer’s warranty, a tradesman guarantee or a home insurance policy. So if you are tempted to sign up to an emergency boiler insurance policy check with your home insurance provider first to see if it already covers repairs to your boiler.
Even if it does not, it is often possible to extend the insurance cover to include the boiler for an additional £50 a year. This will not include the cost of an annual inspection.
Boiler insurance prices vary depending on the system you have installed and the level of cover you want.
A spokesperson for the Financial Ombudsman Service says: ‘Boiler insurance has a bad reputation. We are working closely with the industry and expect claimants to be treated fairly.’
Price comparison website uSwitch says one of the best value for money emergency insurance offers is from HomeServe. It includes an annual service and free call-outs and comes with an initial 12-month ‘special’ price of £162 (discounted from £258).
Michelle Kowalcyzk, 28, from Beckenham in Kent, spent £3,000 installing a new boiler and having old water pipes flushed out last month after suffering years of frustration with an unreliable heating system.
The married secondary school teacher says: ‘Some days the water was scalding hot while on other occasions it would suddenly go cold on me – just at that awkward moment when I was washing my hair in a rush. I have spent hundreds of pounds trying to get engineers to fix the problem but when the heating recently packed up downstairs I decided enough was enough.’
Michelle found a reputable engineer using the Government-backed TrustMark scheme where members sign up to a strict code of conduct.
She also made sure the plumber was Gas Safe registered – something all gas boiler fitters must be signed up to.
The new boiler came with a seven-year guarantee against any fault as long as an annual service was conducted. In addition, there was a ten-year guarantee from the plumber against faults.
Michelle adds: ‘I was not tempted by adverts scaring me into buying unnecessary boiler cover – I can think of more fun ways to waste money.’
IS IT WORTH GETTING A NEW BOILER?
Modern boilers typically cost £2,500 and provide central heating and hot water – there is no need for a separate hot water storage tank.These new boilers should knock £250 off the annual energy bills for most homes compared with the traditional old-fashioned unit in the airing cupboard.
Quality boilers with a good reputation for reliability include those from Worcester Bosch and Vaillant.
Wilgar says an investment in a new boiler will go to waste if the system is not properly fitted or old heating pipes are not cleaned out to remove sludge that may have built up over the years.
Damage caused to a heating system by the build-up of sludge may also invalidate your insurance.